The Women’s Entrepeneurial Leadership program received national recognition this September, but any students trying to join the program will find it impossible to do so for at least another year.
WEL was placed on hiatus this July when its creator, Susan Duffy, left GW. The program was was considered a key factor in the School of Business’s number six ranking for best school for double majors by Fortune Small Business. United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship also named it “Best National Specialty Program Award” in 2006.
“There’s support and everybody agrees it’s a great program,” Duffy wrote in an e-mail. “The question now is how can the school build on what was started?”
The Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, which officially debuted last fall, allowed both undergraduate and graduate students to apply their personal interests and majors to an education in entrepreneurship.
Curriculum consisted of two supplementary courses and the pairing of students with real-world mentors in the business world.
When Duffy resigned from GW in July, her nationally recognized program was put on hiatus since she would not be there to teach the courses.
“The program itself is sustainable without me; that’s how we built it,” Duffy said. “We built it so other faculty could step in and teach the class with minimal effort. There is a fully developed curriculum and comprehensive teaching materials.”
Duffy has worked on organizing the WEL program since 2001, although she received her doctorate from GW’s School of Business in January of this year. She began teaching the program in 2002 through experimental classes and in 2006 the two courses gained permanent class status.
While finishing her doctoral studies, Duffy was offered a two-year visiting professorship at GW in July 2006 in order to develop and teach the WEL program. In July 2007, she declined to continue teaching at GW for a second year in lieu of her interest in teaching positions at other universities.
Susan Phillips, dean of the School of Business, said the school is now entering its second year of reviewing candidates to fill a full-time professor position. The professor in this position is slated to begin teaching in 2008.
Phillips said more than 200 candidates have applied for the vacant professorship. She said although there is great interest in the program, it would be difficult to get the program up and running any time sooner than 2008.
“It would be a loss of a valuable educational asset if everything we built here went away,” Phillips said. “The reality is, this was a really well-received program. I have testimonials from students saying that it’s changed their lives. It’s one of those courses that students say, ‘This is the most important thing I’ve done at GW.'”
Student Melanie Pettit, who transferred from GW last year, was a student of Duffy’s in the WEL program while she was at GW. Pettit was able to use her entrepreneurial knowledge from WEL courses while interning for a nonprofit organization.
“I have learned that there is no experience more inspiring than walking out of a classroom with new knowledge, then, two weeks later, utilizing that exact newfound information in a real corporation,” Pettit said. “WEL turned out to be the most valuable course I’ve taken. The connections I made with the help of Susan Duffy have been so enriching.”
Mentors that worked with GW students through WEL also expressed dismay at the program’s dormancy.
Robin Diamond, who is the program director at the corporate foundation Direct Selling Education Foundation has mentored students in the program since 2004.
“I think there is nothing out there like it.I think it’s tragic it’s on hiatus,” Diamond said. “This isn’t something the business school has made a top priority. There is just so much value for students, particularly women students, going in to the marketplace.”